Newsletter 8/1/18- Tomatoes: a Labor of Love
Every morning, I am greeted by a bouquet of smells when I arrive at the farm. The muddy stench of the pigs mixes with the sweet scent of basil being harvested; the flowers in the fields linger all the way into the break room by lunchtime. But my favorite of all, and the smell that – to me, at least – most signifies the arrival of August, is the warm scent of a sun-ripened tomato.
Tomatoes require a lot of planning and preparation, but I think the payoff is worth it. We planted them when I first started working here back in May, being careful to plant them deeply, so that they can shoot out more roots from the sides of their buried stems. A couple weeks later, we began to prune them, snipping off suckers from the nooks of branches, to channel the plants’ energy into producing large fruits instead of thicker foliage. We tied strings that hang from above to the base of each plant, winding it around the stem so that it won’t break under the huge burden of tomatoes it would soon bear. These things aren’t one-time jobs, either. Pruning and trellising are tasks to keep up with until tomato season is over.
Lately, when I’ve harvested tomatoes, I’ve found myself alone in the greenhouse. Other crew members are busy with other smells – the sharpness of cilantro, the sugary aroma of berries, or the earthiness of beets. Moments alone are rare on the farm, and one of my favorite parts of this job is working as a team. But once in a while, it’s nice to have a quick moment to myself among the tomato plants. Each one lets out a little puff of that characteristic tomato scent as I brush by it, and my hands become stained with yellow oils from the leaves and stems. My harvest box fills quickly with countless shades of red and orange, all different versions of round. It’s becoming my favorite place on the farm, which is a good thing – now that they are here, tomatoes will be around for a while.
I enjoy eating tomatoes as much as I enjoy harvesting them, and admittedly, sometimes I eat enough cherry tomatoes to give myself a bellyache before I even get them back to the packshed. A slice of tomato with a little salt sprinkled on top is one of my greatest summer joys, or a bowl of cherry tomatoes and cucumbers with basil and garlic. It’s August now, and it’s officially tomato time – I hope you all enjoy them as much as I do!